Academic journal article Southeastern Archaeology

The Grand Parallel: A Consistent Latitude of Late Woodland and Caddo Multimound Centers in the Lower Mississippi Valley and Eastern Texas

Academic journal article Southeastern Archaeology

The Grand Parallel: A Consistent Latitude of Late Woodland and Caddo Multimound Centers in the Lower Mississippi Valley and Eastern Texas

Article excerpt

The way people distribute themselves across a landscape reveals underlying principles that govern their political, social, and economic structures (Trigger 1967; Willey 1974). At some point in the development of hierarchically organized and ranked societies, a predetermined spatial arrangement of structures, features, and sites can become an ascendant organizing principle, often superseding immediate ecological concerns (e.g., Flannery 1976:168-172; Trigger 1968:62-63).

During the Late Woodland subperiod between A.D. 400 and 1200, along the southwestern margin of the mound-building cultures of the eastern United States, a series of multimound sites were established at the same latitude of 31.6 degrees north. The pattern is both spatially and temporally extensive, including the Lower Mississippi Valley and eastern Texas and enduring for possibly a millennium. I refer to this pattern as the "Grand Parallel," a designation that refers most immediately to the latitudinal line (a parallel) but also references the Spanish and French colonial penchant for the use of gran (great or grand) in describing things of large extent (e.g., the "gran reyno de Tejas," Gran Quivira, the Rio Grande, the Grand Village of the Natchez). After a brief review of the context, I present the data and their potential significance before outlining a hypothetical model of how the pattern may have developed.

Context and Chronology: The Late Woodland Period at the Southwestern Margin of the Eastern Woodlands

The Woodland period in the Southeast dates from approximately 1200 B.C. to A.D. 1000 and was a time of rising sedentism, population increase, technological change, and complex social organization (Anderson and Mainfort 2002.T). While there are many differences in the systematics and taxonomy of cultural and chronological units that prevail in the different regions along the area of concern in this paper, for the purposes at hand, the edited volume Archaeology of Louisiana (Rees, ed., 2010), syntheses of Lower Mississippi Valley archaeology by Jeter and Williams (1989a, 1989b) and Kidder (1998a), and syntheses of Caddo archaeology by Perttula (1992, 2004) and Story (1990), serve as the practical framework for the prehistoric developments from eastern Texas to the Mississippi River.

In the culture chronologies of the Lower Mississippi Valley and areas to the west, the Woodland period is often placed slightly later than in many parts of the Southeast. Lasting from around 800 B.C. to A.D. 1200, the period is typically divided into three subperiods: Early, Middle, and Late (Table 1) (Rees 2010:12), the two latter of which are relevant here. The rise of the Marksville culture around A.D. 1 ushered in the Middle Woodland subperiod, which covered the first four centuries A.D. (McGimsey 2010:120-121). The Middle Woodland is associated with the macroregional extension of Hopewellian traits across much of the eastern United States. The Jonas Short Mound in Texas marks the southwestemmost extent of the complex (Figure 1). The subsequent Late Woodland subperiod has often been viewed as a one of decline between the Hopewell-Marksville climax and the postWoodland Mississippian developments, but this oncecommon perception has become increasingly obsolete (Anderson and Mainfort 2002:15; Lee 2010:135; Nassaney and Cobb 1991). The Late Woodland in eastern Louisiana, including the Lower Mississippi Valley, is subdivided into Baytown and Coles Creek subperiods. The Troyville culture, designated for the so-named site on the western side of the Black River, dates from approximately A.D. 400 to 700 and is the central identity of the Baytown era (Lee 2010). Still within the Late Woodland, the Coles Creek culture follows Troyville (see Table 1). Between A.D. 700 and 1200, regional inhabitants developed increasing social hierarchy, ceremonial centers, and more extensive social networks (Roe and Schilling 2010:157, 159). Mound building became functionally more diverse. …

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